Cloud Computing Brings Convenience, But At A Price
by, September 3rd, 2009 at 02:31 AM
The tech world is abuzz lately with talk about the "cloud" model of computing, and most people are already benefitting from it whether they realize it or not. While there are some nice things about anywhere accessibility in our internet connected world, there is still ample reason for caution.
Cloud computing means that the application and data are not stored locally on your computer. While some require you to install a small application to access the cloud service, most are readily available for use with a simple web browser. Cloud services are very handy for students or mobile workers who frequently need to access and manipulate their data from different places, and often even from different computers. To put it simply, saving a document in Google's Docs and Spreadsheets cloud service can be much easier than worrying about carrying around a USB drive loaded with things you're not sure you'll even be able to access where and when you need it.
Some of the more popular cloud applications include every day favorites such as Facebook and MySpace, web-based email (Yahoo!, Google, and Microsoft all offer this), Twitter, and pretty much anything Google. Cloud computing has been pushed lately as less-powerful devices like the iPhone and iPod Touch and the increasingly popular netbooks become more common.
But just like you pay more for a gallon of milk at the neighborhood 7-11 than you would at the grocery store, convenience has a price. Since most cloud applications are free to use, I'm not talking about dollars - the price is your privacy, and sometimes even your freedom.
Many cloud users have not even stopped to think about the fact that by choosing to use a cloud service and storing your data remotely, you leave it in the hands of somebody else. While most cloud services are pretty benign as represented by Google's classic "Don't Be Evil" slogan, there is still reason to question. Is it a good thing to hand all your personal data over to a large corporation? Or a small startup? What happens if there is a security breach in their servers? Or a disgruntled employee?
But another, less-often mentioned concern is a lack of control over your computing experience. What happens if a cloud service you use frequently makes a change to the interface, the terms of service, or the overall functionality of the program? Generally, you have no choice or control over whether you want the changes or not.
Cloud computing is already creeping into our lives, and is something that probably deserves more conscious thought than most of us give it.
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